James Bond, eat your heart out.
Set during the height of the Cold War, veteran George Smiley is forced out of retirement to help uncover the identity of the Soviet sleeper agent within the ranks of MI6. In a performance mirroring perfection, Gary Oldman stars as Smiley, the character previously made famous by Alec Guinness in this adaptation of the 1980 miniseries based on the classic John Le Carre spy novel of the same name.
Oldman shines among a star-studded cast including and among the likes of Colin Firth (fresh off his 2010 Oscar win), John Hurt (Alien), Mark Strong (Body of Lies), Benedict C*mberbatch (War Horse) and Tom Hardy (Bronson). Perhaps the greatest testament to Oldman's excellence comes in the fact that fifteen years ago, he bore a Russian accent and was hijacking Harrison Ford aboard Air Force One in order to secure the release of a famed Russian General. His performance here as retired British Intelligence Agent George Smiley is even more impressive than its Russian counterpart, further proving why he's considered by many as the greatest character actor the business has to offer.
Taking his cue from Spielberg's 2005 espionage thriller, Munich, director Thomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) also brings his A-game. Alfredson's stylish use of coloring and imagery screams Cold War-era, evoking a tone and sense of realism indicative of what an espionage thriller should entail.
As with Spielberg's Munich, Alfredson gives us the feeling that he's letting us in on information we aren't privy to seeing -- only adding to the film's heightened sense of cool. Perhaps slow compared to what most audiences have become accustomed, the film is not without its share of payoffs. It's sleek, smart, and a refreshing change of pace from other mindless "spy" movies such as Mission Impossible 4 and the like.
With top-notch performances by an outstanding and perfectly-assembled cast, and a pacing symphonic-smooth, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy comes in as the coolest and most original espionage movie perhaps of all time. As far as Cold War-era films are concerned, however, that honor will forever go to Dr. Strangelove.